When It’s More Than the Flu: How to Tell if You Have Food Poisoning
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 50 million people in the United States get sick from some form of foodborne illness each year. About 128,000 of these people end up in the hospital, and, tragically, more than 3,000 die from their illness.
Even more tragic is the fact that that many of these illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths could be prevented if restaurants and food producers and distributors would take more care throughout the process of processing, delivering, preparing, and selling food to consumers.
Keep reading to learn more about food poisoning and foodborne illnesses, including how they differ from the flu and key steps to take if you’re considering filing a personal injury claim against the parties responsible for your illness.
The Symptoms of Food Poisoning and Influenza
Given the statistics above, you’ve likely had food poisoning (or, as doctors tend to call it, foodborne illness) at some point in your life, even if you didn’t know it, and you’ll probably have it again at some point. So, it’s important to recognize the symptoms so you can seek proper and effective medical attention that treats the correct illness and sets you on the road to recovery.
Food poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are often similar to the flu. Symptoms frequently include diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps, all of which usually occur between 24–48 hours after consuming the contaminated food or drink. The digestive symptoms that food poisoning usually inflicts may also come with fatigue, chills, fever, muscle aches, and sweating.
In contrast, the stomach flu can begin to present symptoms less than one day after being exposed to the virus, but the symptoms generally take longer to reach maximum intensity and persist for longer compared to food poisoning.
In most cases, the symptoms of food poisoning will peak quickly and calm down within a day or two, but if your discomfort persists, you should seek medical attention to determine the source of your illness. And if you’re also experiencing a high fever, severe dehydration, excessive vomiting, or blood in your stool, you should seek medical attention immediately, regardless of how long you’ve been presenting these symptoms.
How Does Food Poisoning Happen?
Food can become contaminated with bacteria or a virus at various points throughout the cycle of growth, manufacturing, distribution, and consumption. The infection can occur on the farm where the food is grown, in the facilities where it gets processed, refined, and packaged, during transit to a market, grocery store, or restaurant, or while it is stored or being prepared at home or in a restaurant.
Some of the most common pathogens that cause food poisoning include e. coli, salmonella, norovirus, and listeria. While almost any food or beverage can carry a foodborne illness, frequent culprits include meat, poultry, shellfish, dairy products, and leafy green vegetables.
To help prevent food poisoning in your household, you should frequently clean your food prep area and cooking utensils, thoroughly cook meat and seafood, and refrigerate perishables. And if you’re not sure about the freshness or safety of any food item, you should discard it. As anyone who’s had a foodborne illness can tell you, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Collecting and Preserving Evidence of Food Poisoning
If you suspect you’ve suffered food poisoning, you have the right to file a legal claim that may be able to compensate you for medical bills, lost income, and other damages. Since symptoms usually don’t present until one to three days after consuming contaminated food, however, proving liability can be difficult, and preserving evidence is crucial.
If you have leftovers, you should refrigerate them immediately and keep them refrigerated until you talk with a lawyer who can recommend a local lab for testing. If you already consumed your entire meal but are convinced it was contaminated, you should return to the restaurant or grocery store and purchase the same food to have it tested. Even if the technicians find irrefutable proof of contamination, the defense will likely attempt to argue the food was contaminated after leaving the store or restaurant, so follow your attorney’s advice to the letter.
Another challenge in executing a successful food poisoning lawsuit is the issue of liability. In these cases, the plaintiff is required to prove who caused the contamination. However, since so many individuals handle food before it reaches you, it can be difficult to pin down who exactly is responsible for a foodborne illness.
Most cases of food poisoning are relatively minor and involve only minimal damages to the victim, which means only the most severe instances are worth filing a lawsuit over. However, multiple people presenting the same symptoms and illnesses after a visit to a restaurant or store usually indicates negligence on the part of the establishment. And when injuries or illnesses lead to extended hospital stays, time away from work, or even death, the victim or their family may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Contact Atkins & Markoff to File a Food Poisoning Claim
If you believe you or someone you love suffered injuries or illness due to food poisoning from a restaurant or other food source, you may be able to recover compensation by filing a personal injury or product liability lawsuit. However, the longer you wait to contact a lawyer and take legal action, the less likely you are to succeed.
If you need help, don’t hesitate — contact Atkins & Markoff to receive a free, no-obligation consultation where we’ll discuss your case and inform you about your legal options. Please call (405) 607-8757 or complete this brief contact form to schedule your appointment with one of our attorneys today.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.